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Gospel reaches to remote Brazilian villages

 

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The Quilombola people of Brazil are descendents of fugitive African slaves. It was their heritage and lack of access to the gospel that piqued missionary Keith Jefferson’s interest and ultimately led him to be a strategy coordinator for the people group.

RECIFE, Brazil (BP) — The teacher leans over Edinaldo’s desk, glancing over the boy’s shoulder as he fills in the blanks on his worksheet. The air is thick and stagnant inside the cement schoolhouse, and Edinaldo is the only child still working to complete his coursework before the summer break.

Playful shrieks abound as children play games in the grass outside the building. Even though Edinaldo is staying after school today, his education most likely will conclude at the same grade level as the rest of the children growing up in the quilombo (village) – grade four.

Unlike his students, Ivanilson Assis Costa had the rare opportunity to continue his education beyond the fourth grade.

When Costa traveled 30 kilometers from his village to complete grades five through eight, he didn’t plan on returning to Brazil’s Quilombola people to teach in their isolated villages, or “quilombos.” In fact, when Costa became a Christian 12 years ago, he felt God calling him to the mission field.

But rather than traveling to a foreign country to share Christ, Costa soon realized God was calling him back to Brazil’s quilombos to share the gospel with his own people – descendants of fugitive African slaves in the 1600s who established their remote villages as safe havens.

“I never imagined God would use me right here where I was,” Costa says.

Keith and Deborah Jefferson from Houston’s First Baptist Church are IMB strategy coordinators for the Quilombolas, but distance, bad roads, and heavy rains prevent them from living among the Quilombolas full-time.

Pastor Edson Oleivero of First Baptist Missionary Church in Cachoaira, partners with the Jeffersons with determination to break through the barriers of isolation to send volunteers into nearby Quilombola villages. One such volunteer, Geralda Santos Sousa, lives four days a week among the Quilombolas. “There is no better way to reach the Quilombolas,” Sousa says, “than to be with the people – to live with the people, to suffer with the people, to go through the difficulties that they go through and identify with them the same way that Christ identified with man.”

After an hour-long ride through bumpy dirt roads and mountainous terrain, Sousa steps out of her cramped backseat in a pickup truck to greet the people of a quilombo with a smile.

Dusk overtakes the village, but a stream of light pours from the open windows of the church where Sousa regularly meets with Quilombolas for worship.

She knows the roads back through the mountains will be difficult to travel tonight but isn’t worried.

“The growth of the Kingdom of God doesn’t have a price,” Sousa says.

 

Kristen Heller is a former overseas correspondent with the International Mission Board. To learn more about how volunteers can be involved in reaching South America for Christ, go to samregion.org. Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering can be made at www.imb.org.

 

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Deborah Jefferson helps children in the village of Terra Vermelho decorate a Christmas tree. Jefferson and her husband Keith serve as International Mission Board strategy coordinators for the Quilombola people who live in remote villages in Brazil’s interior.